Perspective 7: Jon Hamm

As we come off the heels of Sunday night’s latest instalment of the fifth series of AMC’s Mad Men, Perspective returns to RhettMedia to hold the magnifying glass over the screen career of its biggest and brightest star Jon Hamm. Having been shot to fame as one of the most recognisable faces of modern television drama, Hamm’s is a story of destiny and one that is heavily ingrained into the mythology of show business in regards to the stars aligning and the actor being one of the lucky few in the right place at the right time. Despite Hamm’s proximity and contributions to modern quality television, his career has by no means always been such an unmitigated success and is a parable of the tenacity that aids that hand of fate in getting actors to that right place at the right time.

1. TV Extra (The Division, The Unit, What About Brian?; 2002-2006)

Hamm’s career began as early as 1995, over a decade before his break-out role in Mad Men as he relocated to Los Angeles in a bid to chase his dream and perfect his craft. Finding it challenging to be discovered, Hamm would undertake several low key jobs in order to fund his pursuit, which would include an extremely short-lived stint as a softcore pornography set designer. It would not be until the 2000s that Hamm would begin securing regular work onscreen, and even then, the world of television was proving to be a truly tough slog for the actor.

Hamm managed to land recurring roles in police drama The Division and military action thriller series The Unit as well as showing range in the light-hearted What About Brian?, an ill-fated drama focusing on the lives of several early-30-somethings in a youthful, middle-America. However, none of these shows provided the actor with long term success, his various roles making him little more than a glorified TV extra in his predominately supporting roles. Having been working for over a decade, Hamm’s patience for his big break must have been wearing thin by 2006, little realising that the role that would change his life and the face of television lay just around the corner.


2. Mad Man (Mad Men, 2007)

When Matthew Weiner and the casting team of Mad Men were starting the arduous task of scouring hundreds of thousands of portfolios of show business’ every corner, it was probably hard for them to believe they would find someone who would fit the role of the handsome, complex ladies’ man as perfectly as Jon Hamm does. But without the hindsight of how utterly irreplaceable Hamm has become and how incomprehensible that any other actor could portray the emotionally wounded ad man, Matthew Weiner has since noted that casting the role was not as cut and dry as you would imagine, as seen in the video courtesy of Youtube user TVLEGENDS here.

Though we can see Weiner was particularly enthusiastic for Hamm to take the part, circumstances clearly don’t always lie within the hands of those most passionate about the show or the characters, and the video expresses Weiner’s concern over how when certain executives are unconvinced of an actor’s potential, it can drastically alter the success or failure of a show. Thankfully for the actor and the incredibly large fan-base which would come as a result of the excellence of the first season of Mad Men, Hamm managed to secure the role that would propel him to television superstardom, and become one of the coolest and most recognisable icons of the modern television era. Hamm’s success here is typical of the show biz iconography of how one big break is truly all an actor needs to be a prominent figure on-screen for years to come.


3. Big Screen Bit-Player (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Town and Bridesmaids, 2008-2011)

Despite Hamm’s significant small screen success, the next mountain to climb was cinema and the movie world. With commitments remaining from 2008 onwards to the production of AMC’s now massively popular drama, the actor would find it difficult to land a major role on the big screen, instead settling for smaller parts in box office smashing sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still and Ben Affleck-driven crime drama The Town as well as a very minor speaking role in the movie adaptation of The A-Team in 2010.

By the time 2011 rolled around, a break in Hamm’s schedule seemed to open up due to the long absence Mad Men would take after the fourth season, yet this break did not see the beginning of Hamm transitioning into leading man roles. His side-role in the crass female comedy Bridesmaids reaffirmed the belief of the actor as a television star first and foremost, a performer who is perhaps unproven in terms of the massive stage of cinema. In this sense, it is clear that Hamm’s commitments to Weiner’s drama still rules over his schedule yet it perhaps also suggests that the actor is back in the position he was a decade ago as a bit-player in less successful pieces of media. Whether he can remedy this remains to be seen.


4. Tea Leaves (Directorial debut on Mad Men, 2012)

Although the apparent troubles of breaking into the film world may seem ominous for Hamm, it may perhaps be relevant to suggest that his interests lie elsewhere. Having become a producer in the latest season of Mad Men which debuted two months ago this year, the time spent working on the show has afforded him  the opportunity to explore the prospect of directing, making his first foray into the art form in the third episode, Tea Leaves.

With a plot line that mainly side-lined his character in order to allow him to focus on the artistic direction of the episode, Hamm revealed a creative touch of class that hinted at a future endeavour if his inevitable positioning as Hollywood leading man somehow falls through once AMC’s show comes to a close. Hamm has stated that he wished to maintain the tone of the show even through the distraction that his name as director in the opening credits would provide dedicated fans, and it is a testament to the performer that his guiding of co-star January Jones as well as others was rife with enough visual mastery while in keeping with the feel of the show. Having reached the pinnacle of his television career already, Hamm has allowed for a back-up plan to emerge behind the camera on the off chance that his desire or ability to remain in front of camera desists.


What lies ahead of Jon Hamm remains to be seen, but his career is one that says much about the current state of show business and what it takes to make it in the harshest of industries. That wraps up this edition of Perspective, be sure to let your comments be heard in the section below and don’t forget about that like button.


~ by jrhett on May 15, 2012.

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